Silence the Voice Shame

They said he would come after me and they were right. He was waiting outside as I hesitantly emerged from the high school girls’ locker room. I was relieved to see a group of people there. Someone was sure to step in if they saw a seventeen-year-old boy harming a fourteen-year-old girl.

It all started a few days earlier when I said something to a mutual “friend” about a young man’s looks. It was a naïve, but derogatory, comment that my “friend” reported to him. I heard that he was going to confront me about it and put me in my place.

As I took a few steps out of the dark locker room into the brightness of that sunny day, this tough guy greeted me with a full-handed slap across my right cheek. I was totally shocked and in intense pain.  As stunning as the assault was that no one lifted their voice or a finger to help me. I was alone, in pain and publicly humiliated. I heard no one defending me. The only voice I heard was the sinister voice of shame.

The Impact of Shame

The voice of shame tells us that we are something bad. It is different from the guilt that we feel when we do something bad. Shame may accompany guilt for a while and that is normal. But feelings of shame can linger long after an incident is over. Even after we have confessed and turned from our sin, if that was the issue. We can also feel a sense of embarrassment and shame for no apparent reason.

Shame can create an insatiable desire for approval. It provokes us to perform to please others. It keeps us from reporting our abusers. It causes us to fear exposure and rejection. Shame robs us of the joy of forgiveness. It can dominate our thoughts, shutting out the loving voice of the Holy Spirit. Shame has done all this to me, so I know how it operates.

The Story of My Shame

I started to believe that I was not good enough when I was a child. My dad was easily angered and did not allow opinions contrary to his. My four siblings teased me as the baby of the family. My peers criticized my looks, and I was always nearly the last to be chosen when teams were picked. Boys that I liked rejected me. Then that older boy slapped me, and no one stepped in. I could go on.

Early in my life I decided that something must be inherently wrong with me. Maybe you came to the same conclusion about yourself. That was shame talking to us.

Shame did not stop there in my life. After being married for only a few months when I was twenty-one, my new husband decided he was done with marriage, so I was out. Angry and hurt, I then pursued nearly any guy who would bother with me, even virtual strangers.

I know now that shame’s voice is what lured me into that dark place. I had given up on being loved and accepted, so I settled for the fleeting pleasure of being used for a while. I ended up with a stack of shame a mile high and very little hope.

But God graciously met me in that valley of despair. He loved me into his arms where I have found acceptance and comfort throughout the many years since. But shame still screams at me from time to time tempting me to listen to its lies.

Silence the Voice of Shame

A New Identity

A few days after that young man hit me when I was a freshman in high school, my older brother, who was a senior, enlisted a couple of his friends and confronted him about it. He never bothered me again. Knowing my big brother stood up for me helped to dull the sting of my shame.

Jesus is a loving big brother to those who put their faith in him. He stood up for us against shame on the cross and provides a way out of it for good. (Hebrews 2:11-15) But we must lay hold of that deliverance. One of the first steps to doing so is to deny what shame says and believe God instead.

The Bible is full of the good things God says about us. But those encouraging words can be hard to accept when we have listened to the degrading voice of shame all our lives. Sometimes pride can tempt us to hold onto our old familiar, shame-filled identity. We may get some strange pleasure out of feeling sorry for ourselves over the bad things we have experienced.

But if we humble ourselves, let go of the past and choose to believe God’s voice, we will hear about a wonderful, new identity. The identity that he gives us as his loved, honored, and accepted child.

Start to Silence Shame

God changes and heals us by many means: prayer, worship, fellowship and his Word. I believe that the Bible is the most reliable and stable of these. It is a rock that never changes. (Matthew 7:24) Meditating on it teaches us who God is and who we are. It lowers the volume of shame and increases the volume of the love of God.

Here are just a few simple but powerful, biblical truths we can meditate on to begin to silence shame:

  • I am not ashamed. God says he removes the shame of my youth. (Isaiah 54:4)
  • I do not have to hide from others. God invites me to hide in him and be safe. (Psalm 32:7)
  • I am not rejected. God gladly chooses me and loves me. (Colossians 3:12)
  • I am not dirty. God says I am completely clean. (Ephesians 5:26)

Shame is cruel. It belittles us and whispers that we are substandard. It sneers at us and makes us want to hide. Shame has a loud voice, but it does not have the last word.

Professionals in the Pulpit – One of the Church’s Biggest Problems

If you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of social media and I rarely comment on anything. But recently I became curious about a site called Reddit that one of my sons recommended. Basically, it’s a forum site where people learn and comment about almost any topic in the world.

One day, I browsed the current posts in the Christianity section. A young lady wrote that she was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of money her church’s pastors were making and spending. They seemed to be living much better than the congregants and church salaries were 50% of the yearly budget. She was wondering if she was wrong to be bothered by it.

Since the topic of pastor salaries and lifestyle is an area of particular interest to me (one of my pet peeves, actually!), I couldn’t resist commenting though I normally refrain! I wrote that the young lady was right to be disturbed. I related that I think the pastors should take a salary that amounts to around the average income of the congregants.

If that average amount isn’t enough to live on or to have the extras a pastor might want, he can get a side job. After all, the apostle Paul supported himself for a long time while he traveled, preached and established churches.

After I commented, I received a reply from another member who had read the original post and my response. This is what he said:

“You assume all pastors are exactly the same in all aspects of his profession. Like all surgeons have the exact same ability and with the exact same outcome for their patient. How about athletes? Why do some ballers make a 100 times more than other ballers….That’s not fair! They are paid what they are worth. Welcome to the real world.”

This common viewpoint is one of the reasons our churches are a in a mess! Pastors are not meant to be professionals like surgeons or athletes! I responded to him this way:

But being a pastor is completely different than being a professional anything! That’s part of the problem with churches. A pastor is a servant leader of the people, not an executive, or a star. We have turned churches into secular corporations and the pastoral role into a C-suite title.

Read the pastoral Epistles where the apostle Paul gives instructions to pastors/elders Timothy and Titus. They work in and for the kingdom of God, not the “real” world’s system. It’s a family, a fellowship, a place to learn, a place to love and be loved.

Being a pastor is not a career, it’s a calling. If you are called to it, you would do it no matter the compensation and God would provide for your needs in one way or another.

Pastoral qualifications are spiritual and character qualities plus the ability to teach scripture. (1 Timothy 1-7, 2 Timothy 2:24-26). “Worth” in the secular corporate measure is not a factor.

Paul was the greatest apostle, highly educated and qualified, yet he learned to be content with little, even though there were times he had more. (Philippians 4:12)

Paul says in 1Timothy 6:7, “having food and clothing we should be content.” He goes on to warn against desiring money because that desire leads us away from God and into all kinds of destruction.

The kingdom of God is an “upside down” kingdom where those who are first are to take the last place (Matthew 20:16) because it is more blessed to give than to receive. In taking the last place we are more like the example of Jesus who gave up all for us.

Anyone can learn to preach, but not many will lay down their lives, including a large paycheck, for others. That’s the test of a Christian and especially of a pastor. Their rewards will definitely come (both now and later) but they will be mostly spiritual rewards, which are infinitely more valuable than money.

God bless every true shepherd of God’s flock, especially in these days of high-paid, professional preachers.

-Marie